What do you hope follows the United Airlines vs. David Dao fiasco?

I hope some laws change so that customers have more rights and so the police aren’t tools for big business.

A friend of mine recently argued that United Airlines employees did not smash Dao’s face up and drag him off the plane. The Chicago Dept of Aviation Police did. The criticism should be directed at them far more than at United.

I disagree and I think that the airline industry in America needs a serious overhaul.

One problem is that passengers have almost no rights:

The contract of carriage is “incredibly one-sided” in the airline’s favor, Sanger said. And once a person has boarded an airplane, they are required by federal law to comply with the flight crew’s instructions.

Technically, a passenger who refuses to get off a plane could be charged with violating federal law, even if the officials who removed them from the flight exercised their authority in an excessive way, he said. It’s a situation where “the passenger almost always loses.”

“Once the airline labels you as a disruptive passenger and that you pose any kind of a risk to the flight, then you have to go,” Sanger said. “You’re going to go voluntarily or you’re going to go in handcuffs, but you’re going.”

For evidence that the system is designed to favor big business and screw the individual consumer, I look at the following:

The police, in this case the Chicago Department of Aviation Police, effectively work for the airlines. Since some people may disagree I will elaborate: Normally, police don’t get involved in civil disputes. Police may try to help mediate, but in the end a civil dispute is not a police matter: It is a private matter between two parties that the police department often has no power or authority to rule on. That’s what civic court is for…

If my friend owes me $5 and I call the cops, the cops won’t kick the crap out of my friend until he gives me $5. It’s a civil dispute so go to court. But we have another kind of civil dispute when an airline calls and says, hey we screwed up and now we have to kick someone off the flight but they don’t want to leave. The passenger who doesn’t want to get kicked off the plane is just peacefully disagreeing with United’s decision. If the passenger is non-violent, then the only reason this peaceful refusal to stand up is treated as criminal is because the laws and the police work for the airline.

So to bring this back to the beginning and why I blame the airline at least as much as I blame the police: The airline asked for this. The airline asked for their customer to be forcibly removed from the plane. Sure police did the dirty work, but what choice did they have? The money and the laws say the police need to do what the airline tells them to do (in this case).

By the way, what could United have done differently? I say since this was a short flight they should have booked a limo. I bet things would have been different if they had come on board and said: “We have a limo leaving the airport in 10 minutes. We need 4 volunteers to get off the plane and into the limo. We’ll get you your luggage and we’ll give you $1000 each.” Or they could have sent their own employees on the limo. That would have been faster considering the huge delay caused by the airline, the police, and 69-year-old man who got hospitalized.

Filed Under: Airlines + flying

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  1. Sharon says:

    I think there has to be more to this unfortunate incident than the media is reporting (as usual)! First, why and how was this particular passenger chosen, by seat, randomly, or for some other reason? Refusing to “volunteer” was his right, but if the airline told him to leave, then he would have to comply. Was he causing a disturbance? Certainly, the forcible removal was unjustified, or was it? It seems that the police are to blame for their handling of the problem. The passenger was not being arrested, or was he? Too many unanswered questions! Perhaps a limo to transport the airline employees would have been a much better solution.

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